Monday, July 31, 2017

Ta-Da! The MonsterNormous Sample Quilt Is Finished!

King Sized Practice Quilt, Off the Frame and Onto a Bed!

I am SO HAPPY to report that my first attempt at longarm quilting is finished and off my frame.  You may recall that I bought a package of 120" x 120" king sized batting, pieced three lengths of brightly colored fabrics together for the top, and then used plain extra wide muslin for the backing.  In the above photo, you're looking at the back of my practice quilt.  It doesn't look half bad from a distance, especially for a first try, does it?  Even the pantograph looks better from the back, where the thread matches instead of contrasting, and viewed from a distance.  That's encouraging!

I did attempt to quilt a second row of that pantograph, and although there was a bit of improvement, I really didn't enjoy it.  I like seeing the stitches and the texture form on the surface of the quilt while I'm working on it from the front of the machine.  Really, if I wanted to stitch lots of intricate allover quilting designs and have them all come out perfectly without having to practice and fret and work from the back of the machine, a computer robotics system like Intelliquilter would be the way to go.   But I don't envision a whole lot of edge to edge designs going on any of my own quilts, and meanwhile, I've got lots more practice and play that I can do with free motion and with rulers.

Smooth Freehand Quilting from Front of Machine

Once I felt that I had punished myself sufficiently with the pantograph, I went back to working freehand from the front of the machine and experimented with some larger scale shapes similar to what was in the Pernicious Pantograph, as you can see above.

My Jerky Stitching Lines, Trying to Follow Pantograph from Back of Machine

See what I mean?  I almost feel like I'd be better off marking the pantograph design right on top of my quilt with a stencil and then quilting over the lines from the front of the machine.

Backing Shot of Freehand Practice

Anyway, especially looking at my quilting from the back side, where it's white bobbin thread against an off-white fabric, I'm feeling pretty good about this.  It's no masterpiece, but it's not the ugliest quilting I've ever seen, either.  It's not nearly as bad as my initial attempts to free motion quilt on a domestic sewing machine!  There are at least half a dozen different fill patterns there that look good enough to go on a real quilt, and I think that once I DO quilt them on a real quilt, with piecing lines and applique organizing the space and giving me reference points, it should come out even better.

So, YIPPEE SKIPPY!!  Onwards and upwards!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

In Which Following a Paper Pantograph Pattern Turns Out to be Trickier Than it Looks

Ugh, ugh, and more ugh.  

First Attempt at Pantograph Quilting!
After spending the last few months practicing my freehand quilting skills on my new APQS Millenium longarm quilting machine, I finally slapped a pantograph pattern on the back of my frame and attempted to quilt this beautiful allover feathery paisley design by simply tracing along the printed lines.  If you look closely at the photo (click to enlarge), you may see a red dot of light on the paper design.  That's a laser light that I have lined up with my machine needle location on the quilt surface so that I can quilt from the back of the machine.  You would think this would be EASY compared to the freehand quilting practice I've been doing, wouldn't you?  I mean, all I was trying to do was trace along the black line with my little dot of light.

See the Red Laser Dot?
This is the 14" Feather Waves pattern by Anne Bright Designs.  I chose it because first of all, I like it, and secondly, I thought the extended teardrop shapes and swirly points were similar to the shapes that I had been enjoying quilting freehand from the front of my machine.  My expectation was that I would easily quilt this pattern smoothly, standing at the back of the machine and "driving" with the rear handles, tracing smoothly along the lines as the machine executed the pattern beautifully on the quilt...

But when I walked around to the front of my machine to check out my handiwork, I saw that I had quilted THIS:

Instead of Feathers, I Have Quilted Ogre Toes!!!
Blech!!  Okay, so this is after exactly 15 minutes of practice.  They say "everything is difficult before it becomes easy," so I'm not about to throw in the towel or anything.  

My observations: 

Driving the quilting machine from the handles at the back feels very different from driving it with the front handles.  I'm not sure whether this is due to the way the weight of the machine is distributed, or whether I'm just really used to being able to SEE what I'm "drawing" as I quilt with a sewing machine.  It is also possible that it's just easier (although definitely more time consuming!) to quilt on a small, dense scale than it is to do large scale designs that swoop all over the place.  I feel like I need to accelerate into a curve to get it smooth, but when I do that with these big feather curves the machine gets too much momentum going and it wants to keep going when I'm ready to switch directions, if that makes sense.  So I'm going to try slowing down.

I may also have just chosen a design that was not very beginner friendly.  So after I attempt another row or two of this pattern, I'm going to try a different design and see if that goes better.  Wish me luck!

Most Recent Freehand Quilting Practice.  See Why I Thought the Feather Waves Would Be Easy?
Meanwhile, my freehand practice has been going pretty well and I played around with rulers a little bit; that went well, too. 

Experimenting with Arced and Straight Ruler Templates
And I still (still!!) haven't gotten around to scheduling my training day with my APQS dealer.  I'm compiling a list of questions and things I want help with troubleshooting, best practices for certain techniques, etc., and pantograph quilting was something I wanted to attempt on my own before I went for training.

At this point, I'm excited to get to the bottom of my monsternormous King sized practice quilt, rip if off the frame, and load up a REAL quilt.

Happy Sunday, and Happy Stitching!  I am linking up to Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts, Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt, MainCrush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts, and Moving It Forward at Em's Scrapbag. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Bear Paw Progress: Mitered Borders

Hello, cyberworld -- did you miss me?  I left my teenagers home with my husband and snuck off to the mountains for Music Week sleepaway camp with other grownups.  After a week of worship, unplugging from technology and singing my heart out, I feel so refreshed and ready to tackle whatever comes my way!  And that includes mitered quilt borders:  

Bear Paw Progress: Mitered Borders
I used my main sewbaby 'Nina (my Bernina 750QEE) to sew the white inner borders to my quilt top, but then I dropped that machine off at at my Bernina dealer for her annual Well Baby visit while I was out of town.  When I got back, I had to enlist Bette (my 1934 Singer Featherweight 221) to sew the mitered borders onto my bear paw quilt. 

Attaching Second Border
The Featherweight is ideal for mitered corners anyway, since she reverses direction immediately and reliably when I flick that switch.  My experience with computerized machine models has been that they sometimes -- but not always -- will take an addition forward stitch before reversing, which is extremely annoying when mitering or sewing Y-seams or inset seams that need to be stitched right up to -- but not THROUGH -- the adjacent seam line.

Back Stitching Just to the Line Marking 1/4" from the Edge of the Quilt Top
One of my main purposes in writing this blog is to create a permanent, searchable record of my project notes.  I don't trust myself to remember what worked and what didn't the next time I want to do a mitered border, and I can never find the handwritten notes I used to scribble on whatever scrap of paper was handy at the time.  So, next time I want to put a mitered border on a quilt and can't remember how to do it, I'll be referring back to this post.

My border strips are precut to their exact length, the length of the quilt top edge (measured through the CENTER of the quilt top) + the finished width of the border.  I've seen a lot of instructions for mitered borders where they have you cut the border strips extra long and trim the excess after stitching the miters, but I think that's a recipe for a wavy border disaster.  I've marked the border strips and the quilt top corners 1/4" in, where the miter seam begins.

End of First Border Strip Pinned Out of the Way; Pinning Second Border Strip for Stitching
All four border strips are sewn to the quilt top before any pressing is done, simply folding the previously stitched border strip out of the way as I pin the next strip in place.  I have carefully matched the center of each strip to the center of the quilt top, as well as the marks indicating where the side seams end and the miters begin at every corner.

Stitching Begins at Chalk Line and Pin Marking 1/4" from Edge of Quilt Top
Once all four borders were sewn to the quilt top, I folded each corner diagonally with the quilt top WST (Wrong Sides Together) and used the 45 degree angle line on my ruler to draw the miter seamline.  I'm using a Frixxion pen for this, so the marks will disappear when I press the seam after stitching. 

Note that these markings are all on the WRONG SIDE of my quilt -- I do not use Frixxion pens to mark anything on the right side because sometimes the mark is still visible as a white "ghost" line after ironing.  I have also heard of the lines reappearing when the finished quilt is exposed to cold temperatures, and the manufacturer of these pens has told us that chemicals remain in the fabric even after the marks disappear.  All of my quilts get washed upon completion so I'm not terribly worried about Frixxion pen chemicals eating through my mitered corner seams in 50 years, but that is a possibility.  

45 Degree Angle Line from Side Stitching to Corner of Border Strips

Perfect 45 Degree Angle Line Should Go from End of Side Stitching Right to Strip Corner

Pinned In Place and Ready to Stitch

Don't cut off those triangles yet!  Stitch the seam first, open it up and finger press it to check that the miter is perfect.  Trim away 1/4" from the seam line only after you're happy with the corner miter.

Stitching the Miter Along the Drawn Seam Line
I had my 'Nina 750 back by the time I was sewing the miters.

View from the Back
Once I trimmed the excess fabric from the miter seam allowances, I pressed the corner seams open from the back side of the quilt top.  Finally, once all of the corners were done, I pressed all of the border seams away from the center of the quilt top.  I'm really pleased with the way this border turned out.

I Love This Corner!
Yes, I know I stretched that corner a little when I pressed it open.  I'll fix that before I add the next border, but don't the stripes look NIFTY coming together in that mitered corner?!  Happy, happy, joy JOY!!  The butted white inner border was much faster to sew and not worth mitering, in my opinion, and mine is the only opinion that matters since this is my quilt.  ;-)  There is probably a rule somewhere that says that if one border is mitered on a quilt, ALL the borders should be mitered, but I make my own rules...

This Border Makes Me HAPPY!!!!!
So now I want to add a final wide outer border in solid white, but unfortunately I goofed AGAIN when I ordered more Kona Snow border fabric.  I forgot that the quilt top gets bigger after each successive border is attached (duh!) so I do not have a long enough piece of continuous yardage to cut those outer border strips without having to piece them.  Grrr...  When will I learn that I always, ALWAYS need more fabric than I think I do?!  It's not like I'll never find a use for any leftover solid white fabric or anything...  

Another 3 yards of Kona Snow are on order and will show up in my mailbox by the end of the week.  In the meanwhile, now that I've got my 'Nina back from the shop, it's time to finish up that class sample with some walking foot quilting.

Happy Monday and Happy Stitching, everyone!

I'm linking up with:
·       Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  

·       Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts

·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt

·       Moving it Forward at Em’s Scrap Bag:

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Why I Should Have STARTED With a Pressing Plan

Good morning and Happy Saturday!  Check out this lovely HOLE in the center of my bear paw block.  Nice, right?

There's A Hole In My Quilt Top, Dear Liza a Hole!
Up until yesterday, I had four of these holes at the center of every single one of my bear paw blocks, as well as holes at the four corners of most of my sashing star blocks.  When I started making this quilt several years ago, I just started sewing and "pressing to the dark side" rather than making a pressing plan. 

The goals of a pressing plan are:
  • to reduce bulk
  • keep points crisp and sharp, and
  • create the flattest possible quilt top sans thick, knobby bumps where too many seam allowances stacked up, and
  • most importantly, to create nesting seam allowances wherever possible for perfectly matching seam intersections.  
(If you're following a pattern that includes pressing instructions, the pattern designer has already done this for you).  I realized the error of my haphazard ways after sewing this quilt top together, and came up with a delusional plan to fix it (late one night when bad decisions are made and it's best to leave the studio!).  I just popped the seams at all of the offending intersections so I could press the seam allowances in different directions.  Now my quilt top was nice and flat, but there were a bazillion HOLES in it!

See?  I ripped out the stitching to free the seam allowance.
I couldn't leave it that way (although I was tempted to!), because those holes were hazards waiting to trip up my presser foot during the quilting process, and then RRIPPP!!  It was piddly, fiddly, annoying work, but I did restitch all of those blocks closed and repressed the quilt top yesterday and it's so much better now.

The Final pressing Solution
See how I ended up pressing those intersections where my sawtooth star, sashing and bear paw block comes together?  I split the difference and pressed them into little squares.  Who knows whether the mythical Quilt Police would approve, but it's nice and flat and looks good (to me, anyway) from the right side:

Same Sawtooth Star, from the Right Side
One More, 'Cause They're So Cute
After that, I added my inner white borders:

Pinning Borders, Easing Top Slightly to fit Border
Ever since I started thinking about teaching new quilters, I've had a different mindfulness to my quilting.  I typically would be thinking ahead to the next steps, or even to the next project, but now I'm more focused on what I'm doing in this step, this moment, thinking about how I'm going to teach it to someone else. 

A lot of quilters struggle with keeping their quilt edges flat and square, especially if they have multiple borders.  I deliberately included the sashing strips and border in my class project so I can teach them how to do those steps successfully. 

I did talk with my dealer and she agreed that I could teach this as a two-day class, which I feel much better about.  I'm going to continue to think about ways to streamline the process and divide things up, and will probably put together a couple more sample tops as I do that.  I'm also going to corral some family members as guinea pigs and attempt to teach them the project in the allotted class time. 

My stitching has lagged behind a bit this week due to an unfortunate illness afflicting my 2nd floor air conditioning, turning my studio into a sauna.  It's fixed now, but I'm headed out of town after church tomorrow and that's the perfect opportunity for my 'Nina 750QE sewbaby to go in for her annual wellbaby visit.  I think there's an update that I haven't downloaded, too.  Then, when I get back, she'll be in tip-top shape and ready to sew up a storm! 

Enjoy your summer, and happy stitching, everyone!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Moving Right Along: Backing Fabrics Selected for Math Quilt and Bear Paws Quilt!

Good morning, and a big thanks to all of you who responded to yesterday's post with feedback about teaching beginner quilters.  You guys are reinforcing my own gut feeling about this.  This opportunity may or may not be a good fit for me right now, what with everything else I'm trying to juggle and balance.  I'm not looking to reap dazzling financial rewards from teaching (hah!).  I'm only interested in doing it to reap those intangible rewards that come from motivating and empowering others.  I don't want to simplify the project any further because I think my current design incorporates the bare minimum amount of practice with 1/4" seams and intersecting seam allowances that students need to reinforce and master those skills.  I also don't want to just do something using precuts, because someone who only knows how to quilt with precuts and doesn't know how to cut her own fabric is very limited in what she or he can do.  Cutting, 1/4" seams, and matching seam intersections are the three basic skills that everything else builds on and I feel I would be doing a disservice to cut those out.  It would be like teaching beginner math, but skipping addition and subtraction to save time!  So I'll talk to the shop owner again and see what she says.

Meanwhile, I found and ordered backing fabrics for two of my own projects that are nearing completion.  First, for the Math Is Beautiful quilt:

Koi Garden Tiny Droplet in Chartreuse, available here from
...This quilt was based on a graph paper doodle that my son Lars made in his 8th grade Math II notebook:

Lars's Math Doodle
Lars is going to be a junior this fall, so that tells you a bit about how long this quilt has been languishing as a UFO... 

Math Is Beautiful Quilt On My Design Wall (Anders Watching TV)
Anyway, it's destined to be the first real quilt that gets loaded on my long arm frame once I've finished my giant practice quilt.  I was having a tough time picking backing fabric for this one because all of the fabrics in the quilt top are so busy, but I think the chartreuse and magenta dot fabric will complement this OOP Kaffe Fasset poppies and irises print really nicely and help to brighten up what ended up being a very dark quilt top:

OOP Kaffe Fasset Print, Can't Remember the Name
Backing Fabric for the Math Quilt
Better Shot of the Math Quilt, Taken Prior to Borders
I probably should have mixed in a solid somewhere, but ah, well!  This may very well be one of those quilts that grows on me once it is finished.

And the second backing fabric I ordered yesterday is this one, for my Butterflies and Bear Paws quilt:

Tula Pink Slow and Steady Orange Crush Pit Crew available here from Fat Quarter Shop
I am going to finish the borders on this quilt top TODAY, I PROMISE...  But here's what it looks like at the moment:

Butterflies and Bear Paws Quilt, Borders Not Yet Attached
I'm planning on solid white (Kona Snow) inner and outer borders on either side of my pieced batik stripe border, and I'm thinking the Tula Pink fabric would be a nice surprise on the other side of the quilt without risking color showing through the white sections of the quilt top.

OOP Lou Lou Thi Fabric by Anna Maria Horner
Of course, there are drawbacks to online fabric shopping.  Colors can look very different in real life than they do on the computer monitor, based on monitor settings, camera or scanner settings of the photo you're looking at, etc.  There's always a chance that what comes in the mail doesn't look just right with your quilt top, after all.  If that happens, it goes in the stash and I have to start looking all over again.

I would much prefer to shop for my fabrics locally, but I don't have a shop near me that carries fabric that I like: solids, text prints, Kaffe Fassett, Tula Pink, etc.  

Do any of you shop for fabric online?  If so, what are your favorite online quilt shops?  I shop with Fat Quarter Shop and with eQuilter a lot, mostly because they both have a huge selection and their sites are well organized so it's easy to browse and come up with enough fabric in my shopping cart to qualify for free shipping.

The other thing that happens to me in this online quilting community is that I fall in love with fabric someone else is using on their blog, fabric they have had in their stash for a few years that is now OOP (Out Of Print).  That happened to me this week with this fabric, which I just found 5 yards of on eBay:

OOP Tula Pink Royal Elizabeth
How did I miss that loveliness when it was first introduced?!  I snatched it up, of course!  When I'm buying fabric for my stash, without a specific purpose in mind, I typically only buy a fat quarter or half yard, so this is the first time I'm stashing a backing.  It might coordinate with the Tula Pink clam shell quilt...

Alright, I'm off to my studio to get those borders attached to my bear paw quilt!  Have a great day, and happy stitching!

Today I'm linking up with:

·       Let’s Bee Social at

·       Midweek Makers at

·       WOW WIP on Wednesday at

Monday, July 3, 2017

Hey, Anyone Ever Taken, Or Taught, a Beginner Quilting Class?

Happy Holiday Weekend to all my American friends, and Miserable Monday to the rest of you!  I need to pick some quilters' brains today.  I'd like to hear from anyone who has either taken or taught a quilting class for beginners.

My local Bernina dealer, (whom I adore because their customer service is awesome and they are always there for me to keep my sewbabies purring smoothly), has approached me about teaching a class at their shop for true beginners who have never quilted before.  I've never taught a sewing or quilting class before and I taught myself to quilt from books, so I'm trying to find out how much can be covered in a single all-day Saturday class.

This is the project I came up with:

Beginner Class Sample Top, 37" x 37"
It's 37" x 37", and my goal was to create a project that was simple enough for beginners to complete fairly quickly, before getting discouraged and giving up.  I also wanted to cover all of the basics:
  • Choosing fabrics, thread, and needles; pros and cons of prewashing, benefits of quilt shop cottons vs "bargain" fabric from chain stores
  • Basic equipment and supplies
  • Rotary cutting: straightening and folding the fabric, cutting strips and squares, using rulers correctly
  • 1/4" seam, relationship between cutting habits and seam allowance, why this matters, and different feet and methods for achieving accuracy
  • Matching seam intersections
  • Sashing that doesn't ripple
  • Borders that lay flat and square
  • Choosing backing fabric and batting
  • Layering and pin basting
  • Machine quilting with a walking foot
  • straight grain binding with mitered corners, machine stitched to front of quilt and slip stitched to the back
  • Basic quilt label
Sewing On Sashing with 97D foot
The 37" x 37" size is perfect for a small stroller or car seat baby blanket, or for a wall hanging using seasonal novelty prints for Halloween, Christmas, etc. 

Cars and Buses Version
Holiday Favorites Version
Tula Pink Tabby Road Version
The large 9" blocks are great for showing off large scale novelty prints.  Once the newbie quilters have completed this project, they will be ready to move on to other projects with confidence -- from other classes, books and magazines, Block of the Month, etc.  And that's what intrigues me about this teaching opportunity -- the chance to share something I love with other people, to equip new quilters with the basic skills they need to be successful.  When someone emails me and comments on my blog that something I wrote about helped them to be successful with their own projects or encouraged them to try something new, that absolutely makes my day.  

SO...  Here's my question for all of you, especially for any of you who have previously taken beginner classes or who have taught beginner students:  Is it unrealistic to try to teach this entire project in a single day?  I was able to put the quilt top together in two evenings, but it's still not quilted and I didn't have to stop and explain anything along the way.  I did have to stop and dance around when my favorite songs came on the radio, though...

But seriously -- after finishing the sample quilt top, I'm thinking the class should end with the addition of the borders and completion of the quilt top.  Newbie students are going to ask questions.  They are going to make mistakes, and that's great -- I want to have time to stop and show them how to FIX those mistakes.  I don't want to overwhelm the students by dumping too much information on them at once and rushing through the class, and if I DO teach the quilting and binding, I want to do it in a follow up class so that anyone who falls behind has a chance to finish their top and participate in the quilting part.  It's really important to me that every student is able to be successful and feel good about their project.

What do you all think?  Does anyone have any tips or suggestions about teaching quilting classes in general?  My dealer suggested a maximum of six students for the beginner class, by the way.  I deliberately avoided triangles because there are so many different ways to cut and sew them, the bias edges can be tricky, and I wanted the students to be able to make an actual quilt (albeit a small one!) rather than just a placemat or something.  Anyway, as always, any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Stitching!  I'm linking up with:

·       Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  
·       Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts
·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt
·       Moving it Forward at Em’s Scrap Bag: